Update: also see the new desire utilitarianism F.A.Q.
Today I published my free ebook/audiobook about atheistic morality:
I anticipate lots of questions about the theory explained and defended in the book, desire utilitarianism. (Desire utilitarianism is also called desirism, a term which I prefer, so from now on I will refer to it as desirism.)
So here’s my Desirism F.A.Q. It assumes you’re familiar with the basics of the theory, as outlined in my book. If you don’t know the basics, read my book. It’s very short. Or listen to the audiobook.
Also, note that everything here is up for argument. If there are fatal problems with desirism, then we must scrap it and move on. If the basics of it are correct, but its main theorist (Alonzo Fyfe) has made some mistakes applying it to certain situations, then it should be revised.
All your questions will be more competently answered by the author of desirism, not by me, so the links go to articles on his websites.
These are the answers to some common questions about the meta-ethical claims and foundations of desire utilitarianism.
- Can you give a brief overview of desirism? See here. Also, read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
- Why should I choose desirism? See here.
- Is morality subjective or objective, absolute or relative? Read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
- How can you have ethics without God? Read: 1, 2.
- Are there moral facts? What’s wrong with error theory? Read 1, 2.
- Aren’t you just saying that desire fulfillment has intrinsic value, that we should do whatever fulfills the most desires? No! Read 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
- Why desire “fulfillment” instead of desire “satisfaction”? See here.
- What do you mean, “reasons for action“? See: 1, 2, 3.
- Why should I accept your definition of “morality”? Definitions are not important. Read: 1, 2, 3, 4.
- Isn’t this just like preference utilitarianism? No. Also read: 1, 2.
- What’s wrong with common utilitarianism? See the above question, and also read: 1, 2, 3.
- What’s wrong with Kantianism? See here.
- What’s wrong with non-cognitivism? See here.
- What’s wrong with virtue ethics? See here.
- Isn’t happiness the sole good? No. Also read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
- Does it matter how many people are wronged? Not really.
- Isn’t morality simply an evolved sentiment? Read: 1, 2, 3, 4.
- What about G.E. Moore’s naturalistic fallacy? See here.
- What about Hume’s is/ought gap? See here and here.
- Okay, so how do I use desirism to make moral decisions? What should I do? Read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
- How do I become a better person? See here.
Here are some answers about the basic theoretical implications of desirism.
- What about animals? Don’t they have desires? Yes. Read: 1, 2, 3, 4.
- Is there such a thing as group responsibility? Sort of.
- How does free will affect desirism? Read: 1, 2, 3.
- How can we morally persuade others? Some thoughts here.
- What is justice? Read: 1, 2, 3.
- What about social contract theory? See here.
- Since we all act to fulfill our desires, are you saying we’re all selfish? No.
- Why should I care about the desires of others? See here.
- Can I ever relax, or must I spend every waking moment doing good? Some thoughts.
- So, do rights exist? See here.
- How does desirism account for negligence? See here.
- How does it account for “bad Samaritan” situations? See here.
- What about non-obligatory permissions? See here.
- What about excuses? See here.
- What about “mens rea” or “guilty mind”? See here.
- How does desirism deal with moral dilemmas? See here.
- What about actions that are above and beyond the call of duty? See here.
- I don’t like some of the implications of desirism. That’s irrelevant.
- Can what is moral change throughout time? Yes, because the world changes.
- How does desirism deal with the problem of moral luck? See: 1, 2, 3.
These are some answers about what happens when we apply desirism to common moral situations. Remember, you should not judge desirism based on its implications (based on whether it agrees with your accidental moral prejudices), but based on whether or not it accurately describes what morally relevant facts there are about the real world.
- Is it okay to harm someone to prevent them from doing wrong? Sometimes.
- Can there be a just war? Yes. Also read: 1, 2.
- Is patriotism good? Not really.
- Is capitalism good? Some thoughts: 1, 2, 3.
- Is taxation okay? Yes.
- What about libertarianism? See here.
- What about freedom? See here.
- What should we do about offensive speech? See here.
- Should “free speech” include calls to do harm? No.
- Do people always have a right to their opinion? No.
- What about abortion? See here and here.
- What about stem cell research? See here.
- What about homosexuality? See here.
- What about pornography? Read: 1, 2.
- Is capital punishment okay? Some thoughts.
- What should we do about global warming and environmental problems? Some thoughts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
- What about human cloning? See here.
- What’s the value of survival? See here.
- What’s the value of truth? Read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
- Is stealing ever okay? Some thoughts.
- Is ridicule okay? Sometimes.
- What obligations do we have to children? Read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
- Are protests ethical? See here.
- Is anger okay? Yes.
Here are some general background answers.
- Who came up with this theory, and why? Alonzo Fyfe did. Here’s how: 1, 2, 3, 4.
- Has Alonzo been interviewed? Yes, on The Infidel Guy and Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot (1, 2).
- Has Alonzo written any books? Yes: Desire Utilitarianism: An Atheist’s Quest for Moral Truth, A Better Place: Selected Essays on Desire Utilitarianism, and a novel: The Cult of Justice and Will.
- Why hasn’t desirism been defended by any major philosophers yet? Though he has studied moral philosophy for decades, Alonzo writes for the common man; he does not publish in journals. Professional philosophers do not read blogs for insights into moral theory.
- What’s the great objection to desirism you’ve ever heard? See here.